Although the end result was the same (a loss to the 76ers), the second game in the back-to-back was much more entertaining and left Howland wondering just what the Raptors have in Sonny Weems....
Well the second preseason game was nothing like the first...except in terms of the results.
After a turnover filled game in London which featured some terrible defense and some sloppy play, the Raps tied their laces a little tighter and gave the small crowd at the ACC a pretty good show.
On a whole the second game of the preseason was much more satisfying. The Raptors defense was better, albeit far from where it needs to be come the regular season, and the offense was much better as everyone was looking to attack the rim when the opportunity presented itself.
Now if you were a fairweather fan attending last night's affair I am sure on more than one occasion you had to check the program to see who exactly was getting all the minutes for the Raps. Coach Triano limited the minutes of his regular season starters and really gave the young guys an opportunity to play.
Play they did....in particular Sonny Weems.
Although early in the process and shy two more established small forwards in Turkoglu and Wright, if Weems keeps up this level of play Triano will have to find some opportunities for this guy to see the floor even if those opportunities are limited. As Triano said in the post game, Weems brings a dimension this teams doesn't have...raw athleticism. Weems was all over the court last night. Although he looked a little out of control at times if he continues his relentless attack of the rim and his active defense he could play himself into a limited but important role. His play the last two games reminds me a lot of "Good Joey". Hopefully Weems doesn't have the frustrating alter ego that accompanied that name for some many years.
Weems was only one of the young bucks who brought the energy last night...or what I call Reggie-itis. Marcus Banks, Patrick O'Bryant and Amir Johnson were also impressive. It's hard to believe that Banks and O'Bryant were impressive at all, let alone in the same game. Their energy was never more apparent then it was in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. Although the line-up on the floor looked like it was better suited for a D-League All-Star Game the Raps young guys really got after it and it was clear they wanted to get a W no matter its worth. O'Bryant and Johnson were doing a great job protecting the basket on the defensive end and Banks and Weems were hustling down the court and creating easy hoops on the offensive end. The competitive spirit each of them displayed was a joy to watch.
As much as Reggie Evans provides the grit and rebounding that this team so desperately missed last year the new bench players also bring an energy and hustle that this team was also missing. I think it is very possible that by the end of the season Bucks fans are wondering just how Colangelo managed to get Johnson and Weems for so little.
On a whole the team played a lot better and showed improvement just 24 hours removed from the game on Tuesday night. There are many positives to take from the game.
What cannot get lost in the shuffle however, is the fact that three guys who are going to play a huge role in how this team fares this season are still MIA and look to be out for the next game in Minnesota. Although dressed last night, CB4 didn't see the floor and all indications are that Wright and Hedo won't be travelling with the team on Friday. As more time passes the significance of their absence grows.
Until we see CB4 and Turkoglu on the floor it is impossible to tell what this team is really all about. The more time that passes without these guys on the floor the harder it is going to be for this team to be successful when the games actually count. It’s key that these guys get some time together against some real competition, yet at the same time it is absolutely imparitive that everyone start the season healthy. It's actually a no-win situation.
What bothers me is that the excuses for Hedo's absence are already starting to surface and they are fairly weak. Everyone knows he played heavy minutes as the Magic went to the Finals but is this really an excuse? Absolutely not. Further, it was his decision to play for the Turkish National team over the summer despite the fact that he had just signed a huge contract. Being worn out is a rather lame excuse and frankly falls on deaf ears. If I were Colangelo I would be a little concerned that the return on my major investment this past summer may not be what I expected. As a fan it is nice to see Sonny Weems excel but it's Turk who bares the weight of my expectations. I am not sure how comfortable I am with that at this point.
Nevertheless with players missing in action, opportunities to shine are available. As Triano tightens minutes it will be interesting to see who takes advantage and who ends up in street clothes come game 1.